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Thoughts on solar: Trying to keep Tabs on my finances
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Thoughts on solar

May 13th, 2011 at 05:40 am

I really like the idea of solar power. I really do. Who wouldn't like free, passive electricity?

It's just so unfortunate that they are so darn expensive. A modest 80 watt kit can cost as much as $1000 to $2000. This does not include accessories such as voltmeters, mounts, and sometimes, not even charge regulators and inverters. Oh yeah, and don't forget the batteries.

Solar is also a finicky beast, where cloudy days can reduce efficiency as much as 40 to 50%. Heat exposure can knock that down even further. Solar panels also have a shelf life, and could lose around 15% more efficiency naturally in the first two years. Batteries will need to be replaced eventually as well.

In all, and depending on who you ask, solar panel owners don't break even until about 10 to 20 years later. That's a long time.

Still though, solar seems irresistible to me. It can be an affordable enough option if you can reduce your energy needs low enough. This is doubly so for small, specific energy needs. For example, I am thinking about getting an emergency flash light and radio that can be charged by solar or by hand crank, and I am going to try to use it every night for ambient back lighting instead.

However, my dream some day is having a powerful enough system to be able to charge a laptop and cellphone every day. I don't think that's being entirely unreasonable, especially if I am going to try to pare down to a less costly and more mobile lifestyle.

Anybody know of any good systems or resource on solar power I should look at?

2 Responses to “Thoughts on solar”

  1. debtfreeme Says:

    Actually you can get a solar powered battery charger and create enough electricity to charge your lap top now. I did it in the peace corps ten years ago and the technology now is incredible.

    I have a small cell charger in my emergency kit which can charge my cell phone, computer etc. and I use it a few times each summer to make sure it is still working. I bought my original solar powered battery charger at radio shack (one of those things I thoght would come in handy, definitely a want) for about $30. It worked great! Then I purchased the new cell mat a couple years ago from a website i can't remember the name of. Something whch also had back packs with cell packs inside for charging cell phones/ipods when back packing. It was $27. It does come in handy when my nieces and nephews come over in the summer and want to swim when I have to work.

  2. Jerry Says:

    Depending on where you live, there are also some government programs that can lead to huge savings on going solar... and it's not hard to find smaller solar devices to use on a phone or laptop, as noted above. Check out online and see if you can find one that has the insurance of excellent reviews, as well as a reasonable cost, and let us know how it works out for you!
    Jerry

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